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Employee assistance programs for employees struggling with drug addiction

An employee assistance program can benefit both an employee and the company.

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An important part of an effective drug-free workplace program is having an employee assistance program (EAP) for employees that are struggling with drug abuse.
According to the Department of Labor, the reasons for having an EAP as an aspect of a company’s drug-free workplace program are threefold:

1. Employees are a vital part of business and valuable members of the team.
2. It is better to offer assistance to employees than to fire them.
3. Recovering employees can, once again, become productive and effective members of the workforce.

What’s the purpose of an EAP in a drug-free workplace?

An EAP serves as a proactive measure to catch employee addiction issues before they escalate. An EAP can intervene in the early stages of addiction and direct employees to the proper sources of help, offering an employee a chance to recover and regain productivity in the workplace.

An effective EAP should be widely dispersed and explained to employees, should clearly define a company’s drug abuse policy, and should provide education and access to drug addiction resources, as well as detailing what percentage of treatment costs will be covered by the company.

The Department of Labor provides a sample EAP policy on their website.

Prevalence of Employee Drug Abuse

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2013, of the 21.6 million people who were classified with substance dependence or abuse, 11.3 million of them were employed full-time. Considering the US’s total workforce in 2013 was about 143 million, this means roughly 8% of the workforce was classified with substance dependence or abuse.

Drug abuse is a common issue that employees can struggle with – and most, if not all companies will encounter an employee dealing with drug addiction. Having an effective EAP in place is one of the best ways a company can prepare for this eventuality.

Security of EAP’s

A typical Employee Assistance Programs offers both job security and privacy to deal with drug addiction.

First, an effective EAP has a caveat that assures an employee that they will not be terminated if they confess to having a drug problem – or if they are referred to the EAP by a superior. The company’s goal under an effective EAP is to promote the well-being of their employees, not fire them.

Second, when an employee seeks treatment from a source referred by the EAP, while an employee’s supervisor is made aware that an employee is in contact with a help provider, the supervisor is not made aware of the nature of the problem. An employee seeking help under an EAP has privacy rights – the treatment and progress is kept confidential.

Cost of Hiring a new employee

Helping an existing, trained employee recover from addiction can often be more intelligent from a business perspective than hiring a new employee.

First, losing an employee means losing all the knowledge that employee has amassed during their time at a company. While skills may be replaceable, insider knowledge is generally not. Thus, with an employee’s departure, the shortcuts, client insights, methodologies, and other contributions depart the company as well.

Second, the costs of hiring a new employee can be extravagant. Placing job ads, recruiting, interviewing, employee screening, and setup for a new employee can cost up to $3,500 for a minimum wage employee.

Finally, hiring any new employee is a risk. The new employee may fail to integrate with the workplace or may have a change of heart or may just be using your position as a launchpad to a better job.

Having an EAP that helps existing employees recover from drug addiction not only shows an interest in the well-being of your workforce (an interest likely repaid in employee loyalty), but is also an economically viable policy.

Benefits of EAP’s to companies

An EAP can limit workers’ compensation claims and potential insurance costs incurred by an employee becoming ill or unable to work as a result of drug addiction.
Further, an EAP is an integral part of a drug-free workplace program. Under New York State Industrial Code Rule 60, compliant return to work & drug-free workplace policies result in a mandated 6% credit on workers’ compensation insurance premiums in the first calendar year after they’re approved.

Mobile Health

An important aspect of a drug-free workplace is drug testing. Mobile Health offers extensive employee screening services including drug testing, employee physical exams, tb tests, flu shots, and other occupational health services.

In addition, Mobile Health can help you reduce your workers’ compensation premiums by helping employers get their return-to-work programs and their drug prevention programs in compliance with New York State Code Rule 60.